Supervisory Role of Department Chair or Program Director

Questions answered

Why is “supervisor” one of the roles of a Department Chair or Program Director?

Some responsibilities of Department Chairs or Program Directors fall under the role of supervisor as defined by State and Federal law, as well as by the College. In California, for example, a supervisor is “Any individual having the authority to…hire…assign, reward or discipline other employees, or the responsibility to direct them….” A Department Chair or Program Director is viewed by the College and, in most if not all cases, would be considered under law to be a supervisor for all department employees, whether staff or faculty.

Why is being a “supervisor” under the law and College policies something it is important for a Department Chair or Program Director to keep in mind?

When serving as a Department Chair or Program Director, an individual inevitably assumes added legal as well as administrative obligations; there is potential for the Chair or Director to incur individual liability as well as liability for the College if their supervisory responsibilities aren’t carried out in accordance with College policy and applicable laws, or if the Chair or Director doesn’t act or “know”, based on what he or she “knew or should have known.”

What are some examples of situations where a Department Chair or a Program Director should use HR (staff) policies or could benefit from consulting Human Resources?

  • Recruitment and selection for staff positions and support for faculty recruitment and selection.
  • Contract processing for faculty.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity/Diversity support, complaints and issues involving faculty and staff employees, as described in both faculty and staff handbooks.
  • Sexual Harassment training, policies, complaints and issues for all employees.
  • Whistleblower Policy: reports of suspected fraudulent or dishonest conduct involving employees – all employees.
  • Conflict of interest issues – all employees.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) related to employees both faculty and staff.
  • Performance reviews, job descriptions and compensation issues for staff employees.
  • Timekeeping, overtime, wage & hour laws – some staff employees and some less-than-fulltime faculty.
  • Vacation & sick leave tracking and authorization – all staff employees.
  • Resignations and retirement, all employees.
  • Performance problems, discipline and terminations, staff employees.
  • Consultation on employee issues and conflict resolution assistance, all employees.
  • Benefits, including tuition reimbursement and tuition exchange – all employees.
  • Training and development, staff employees.

This list isn’t all inclusive – the HR staff will be happy to consult with Department Chairs and Program Directors on any employee issues. Early consultation is encouraged.

What are some examples of staff positions?

In addition to Department Chairperson or Program Directors, staff positions include Administrative Assistants, Program Coordinators, and Assistant or Associate Directors – even in those situations where the positions are held by faculty.

What does the term “staff appointment” mean?

Even though a person appointed to serve as a Department Chair or as a Program Director may also be a faculty member (including tenured or tenure-track faculty members), the appointment to serve in these administrative positions and capacities is a staff appointment.

Where can a Department Chair or Program Director find information and assistance related to the supervisory part of the position?

The Human Resources Department Staff is available for assistance and consultation; the HR SMC website has checklists, procedures, and other helpful tools; plus, HR provides periodic emails to either “staff” or “all staff,” which include information all employees in supervisory roles need to know.

Revised on August 3, 2006